The season opener for head coach Kevin Wilson and his Indiana football team is just over a week away. Between now and then Peegs.com will take a look at every position on the roster as the Hoosiers continue to prepare for the 2016 season. In this preview we examine the linebacker position, which is a spot where IU returns a great deal of experience and production.
CLASS: Redshirt Junior
STATS: In 2015 Oliver recorded 112 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, four pass breakups, two interceptions, two QB hurries, one sack and one fumble recovery
NOTES: Oliver had a breakout season in 2015 as he became the first IU defensive player in six years to record 100 or more tackles in a season. He was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten by the media after the season. In the new 4-2-5 scheme of defensive coordinator Tom Allen the Ohio native is expected to do even bigger things this fall. The coaching staff is looking for Oliver to be the leader of the defense, and they are expecting him to have a big year on the field as he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays in Coach Allen's scheme. From all reports Oliver has had a good Fall Camp and is in line to be an all-conference type player this fall.
STATS: In 2015 Scales recorded 64 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, three sacks, two interceptions and one QB hurry
NOTES: Scales is arguable the most athletic player on the Indiana defense regardless of position. The Cincinnati native runs like a defensive back but has the size of a linebacker. He has been an impact player from the day he arrived in Bloomington a couple years ago. Scales has shown a knack for getting in the opposing backfield and for getting pressure on the quarterback, but he is also pretty effective against the pass when asked to cover tight ends or backs. With him and Oliver at linebacker the Hoosiers have as good of a duo at that spot as about any team in the Big Ten.
STATS: In 2015 Simmons recorded 73 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks and one pass breakup
NOTES: Simmons has been a fixture in the Indiana defense since his first day with the Hoosiers, but with the change in defense it will be interesting to see where he fits in this fall. Simmons has been a very productive player even though he has limitations athletically. He has played in 37 games for the Hoosiers with 35 starts and he is the active career leader with 213 tackles. With Oliver and Scales looking like the probable starters at the two linebacker spots for the Hoosiers it appears Simmons will be used in a reserve role this fall.
CLASS: Redshirt Senior
STATS: In 2015 Fletcher recorded 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup
NOTES: Fletcher started his career with the Hoosiers at safety but made the move to linebacker during the 2014 season, which is the season he redshirted. Fletcher's should get some time on defense for IU this fall, but his primary contribution will most likely be on special teams. The Ohio native should be a regular on the coverage teams and he gives the Hoosiers an experienced player on those units. It also would not be surprising to see him get a few reps at the Husky position this fall.
CLASS: Redshirt Sohomore
STATS: In 2015 Willis recorded 16 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery
NOTES: Willis played in all 13 games last fall at linebacker and on special teams as a redshirt freshman. With all the experienced talent at linebacker and with the Hoosiers only play two linebackers this fall playing time could be tough for Willis, but he is someone the staff has mentioned as having a good Fall Camp. He should be a regular on special teams for the Hoosiers, but it remains to be seen how many reps he will get with the IU defense this fall. The IU staff has talked about rotating as many guys as possible so that should give him a chance to get playing time when the defense is on the field.
STATS: In 2015 Covington recorded four tackles
NOTES: Covington did not play in the first five games of the season last fall for the Hoosiers as he was still coming back from the knee injury he suffered during the 2014 season. The Chicago native came to IU as a defensive player but was moved to QB during Fall Camp of his freshman year. He played in a few games at QB in 2014 before suffering a season ending knee injury against Iowa. He asked the staff if he could play defense so in spring ball last year he was moved to linebacker. He is a very intriguing player because of his combination of size and athleticism, but because of the knee injury he suffered that has limited him the past two years he hasn't been able to show what he can do on the field.
CLASS: Redshirt Freshman
STATS: Jones redshirted last season as a true freshman
NOTES: Jones spent his true freshman season last fall as a redshirt, but he made the most of it as he was named the Scout Team Player of the Week six times. The Florida native is similar to Tegray Scales in that he was an undersized linebacker in high school that was known for his speed and athleticism, and for his physicality. Like some of the other linebackers it will be interesting to see how many snaps he gets on defense, but he should be in the mix to get a great deal of snaps on special teams.
Indiana is fortunate to have a deep and talented group of linebackers as they transition to a new defense under defensive coordinator Tom Allen. In probable starters Marcus Oliver and Tegray Scales the Hoosiers have a very talented and very experienced duo to plus into the two starting linebacker spots in the 4-2-5 defense. Not only are Oliver and Scales experienced, but they have both been impact players who have have shown a knack for making big plays. Behind them you have a very experienced player in T.J. Simmons, but the question with Simmons is how does he fit in a defense where the linebackers will be out in space more and he struggles at times when he has to play in space. Simmons has been such a productive player that you would think there is role for him in the new defense. With Chris Covington, Dawson Fletcher, Dameon Willis and Reakwon Jones there is talented depth for the Hoosiers. It will be interesting to see how Willis and Covington fit in. Willis because he is a guy that the staff has praised in Fall Camp, and Covington because he is a very talented athlete with good size. Reakwon Jones might not get a ton of defensive snaps this fall but his future appears to be very bright for the IU defense.